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Poland arrests Huawei employee on allegations of spying for China

Poland has arrested a Chinese employee of Huawei and a Polish national involved in cyber-business on allegations of spying, Polish state media reports, deepening the controversy over western criticism of the Chinese telecoms equipment maker.

US intelligence agencies allege that Huawei Technologies Cos Ltd is linked to China’s government and that its equipment could contain “backdoors” for use by government spies.

No evidence has been produced publicly and the firm has repeatedly denied the claims. But the criticism has led several western countries and companies to consider whether they should allow Huawei’s equipment to be used in their telecoms networks. This has strained relations with Beijing.

Polish public television channel TVP said security services had searched the local offices of Huawei, as well as those of telecoms firm Orange Polska, where it said the Polish national works.

China’s foreign ministry said it was greatly concerned by the reports and urged Poland to handle the case justly.

Huawei said in a statement: “We are aware of the situation, and we are looking into it. We have no comment for the time being. Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, and we require every employee to abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where they are based.”

Orange Polska said in a statement that the security agency had on Tuesday gathered materials related to an employee, whom it did not identify. The company added it did not know if the investigation was linked to the employee’s professional work and that it would continue to cooperate with the authorities.

TVP said the security services also searched the offices of Poland’s telecoms regulator, the Office of Electronic Communications, but the regulator denied this.

In December, Canadian authorities arrested a top Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, at the behest of US authorities as part of an investigation into alleged violations of trade sanctions, raising tensions with China at a time when Washington and Beijing are engaged in a broader trade war.

The west’s security concerns surrounding Huawei and fellow Chinese telecoms equipment firm ZTE Corp, centre on China’s National Intelligence Law. Approved in 2017, the law states that Chinese “organisations and citizens shall, in accordance with the law, support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work”.

This has sparked fears that Huawei could be asked by the Chinese government to incorporate “backdoors” into their equipment, which would allow Beijing access, for spying or sabotage purposes. Some experts also fear that Chinese intelligence agencies may develop a way to subvert Huawei’s equipment.

Norway said on Wednesday that it was considering whether to join other western nations in excluding Huawei from building part of the country’s 5G telecoms network.

Maciej Wąsik, the deputy head of Poland’s special services, told state news agency PAP: “The Chinese national is a businessman working in a major electronics company … the Pole is a person known in circles associated with cyber-business.”

The arrested pair will be held for three months, PAP reported, citing the spokesperson for Poland’s head of special services.

TVP said the Polish national was a former agent of the internal security agency. The agency did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

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